A couple of months ago, at the MCA, I stumbled across an interesting piece of work; a collection of the old, moulded, worn-in shoes of those people who were caught in a natural disaster in Mexico.
Unfortunately I do not remember the name of the artist, or the exact events that surrounded the artwork, but the ideas encapsulated in the text plaque underneath have stayed with me. It said something like this;
“shoes are particularly interesting because they hold so much of who we are- the weight of our bodies are moulded into them, no other piece of clothing is as personalised as shoes.”
When I walked the corridors of parliament in Canberra this week, though I had my head raised- looking out for familiar faces and controversial items to debate; interestingly, I was struck by the shoes. I noted the black RM Williams boots- a nice Australiana icon sported by our front row MPs. I observed the burgundy peep toes worn by Latika Bourke at Julia Gillard’s press conference; and was almost distracted by the gorgeous black t-straps worn by Kate Ellis during question time.
It is known that Kate Ellis’ outfits have caused a stir; Latika Bourke’s fashion choices have been commented on and of course Julia Gillard’s been all over Australian media discussing a myriad of lifestyle choices- particularly this week as the At Home with Julia ‘flag-shag’ caused some hype.
And amongst all the ‘important’ issues that run off the press each day- I am wondering why we (I + others) continue to comment on the more superficial?… Particularly in regards to our conclusions on women. (Hello, Rachel Hills)
How shall I respond to these side show conversations? Do I support them and indulge on the exterior (like right now), or do I shut it down and concentrate on ‘what is important’?
I begin to question- am I more comfortable to discuss the light-hearted; rather than be involved in making statements that may appear controversial?
Has my shoe-observations got something to do with my twentysomething identity crisis wherein my perspective is informed by the height under my heel?
Are my field notes influenced by my politically-obsessed father who sells shoes for a living?
And is the conversation relevant?
Is it worth drawing attention to the relationship issues our Prime Minister might deal with? Is the flag shag worth showing, worth reporting and worth causing hype about? Or do we decide not to talk about the ’emotional’ side of politics?
It continues. I recall reading an article on the Dominique Strauss-Kahn controversy wherein the author purported that it was a typically ‘American’ desire to know the faithfulness of their political leaders (Bill Clinton…), yet the French are not interested in their leaders’ relationships, they simple need to trust them in the political sphere.
True or False?
Is it worth applying semiology to the leaders’ outward actions?
When Kate Ellis appeared on Q&A, she commented, “we accept that we need to have a more diverse parliament but quite often we want to get people and then fit them into the existing mould of what parliamentarians have always looked like.” I believe she has a point.
And perhaps it is true that the outward appearance holds some more significant personal weight, just as the shoes in South America represented much more than a necessary piece of apparel.
Perhaps we come back around to the idea that the fairy-tale cinderella model of the perfect fitting glass slipper has some resonance for us. (Is any one vomiting to this?)
Perhaps our worlds are influenced by the physical and emotional constructions we place around them.
Perhaps the conversation on how the physical represents the emotional is important to progress the political.
Or perhaps these ‘women’s issues’ have nothing to do with politics.
[So into this world, I strengthen my shaky step; and attempt to follow a path that the women before me have paved with their feet.]